In Loving Memory of Vovka, a Person Full of Love

He sat behind me, at the fourth desk in the middle row, and teased me all the time. He would either tie my apron to the chair, or weave Olia’s braid together with mine. I did not hold back either. Such a nice person — why not play tricks on him, right? He and I also exchanged hilarious letters — during the lessons, of course — making each other burst with laughter, and played dice without interrupting our learning process. We stayed away only from boardgames, since it could lead to certain consequences… Vovka’s jokes were sparkling, his ideas witty, his disposition cheerful, and the pancakes he flipped so skillfully — delicious. Later, I introduced Vovka to a friend of mine. It happened a quarter century ago, but they have not quarreled even once ever since.

“It’s just impossible to quarrel with him,” Olenka, my friend, said when I ran into her in late January.

Together, Vovka and Olenka raised three children and one grandchild. Together, they were hiding from “brotherly” shelling and bombing in the basement of their own house. The missile hit it at 4 pm on March 5. It took a long while for the neighbors to dig them out from under the rubble, but our dear Vovka could not be rescued. A fragment of the Rushist bomb hit his clever head.

I remember how we graduated from high school, and Vovka was about to leave Mariupol for college. The entire class saw him off, and the girls were even crying. This time, though, none of his classmates was there to see him off. All people who were still in Mariupol were hunkering down in bomb shelters, without access to cell service. Olena, Vovka’s wife, buried him in their own yard. Under relentless shelling. I learned about it only yesterday.

I write this in loving memory of you, Vovka, a person full of love. I am so sorry that I don’t have any photo of yours to publish in this post dedicated to you! All our school pictures remain in our dear Mariupol. Please keep an eye on them, will you? Hugging you for the last time.

P.S. I don’t have any photo of Volodia or at least of his grave. But I do have lots of photos of graves of innocent locals who died under the Russian shelling, just like Vovka, and were buried in their own yards.

Author: Oksana Stomina, poet, writer

Translator: Hanna Leliv

Content Editor: Maryna Korchaka

Program Directors: Julia Ovcharenko and Demyan Om Dyakov Slavitsky